NatWest becomes first UK bank to unveil credit card using fingerprints

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
Digital fingerprint, conceptual computer illustration. Photo: Getty

Natwest, owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L), has become the first bank in the UK to issue a biometric fingerprint credit card.

The group, in partnership with Mastercard and Gemalto, began its three-month national trial today with 150 customers. While Natwest has previously piloted biometric debit cards, this will be the first-time credit cards have been issued. It effectively allows customers to use contactless payment for transactions up to £100, using fingerprint verification. Currently contactless payments are limited to £30 worth of transactions.

Georgina Bulkeley, director of innovation at NatWest said “this is the biggest development in card technology in recent years” and highlighted how not having to enter a PIN increases security and makes it easier to shop.

Howard Berg, senior vice-president, UK Ireland and Switzerland of Gemalto, a Thales Company, added: “Biometric have a big role in the future of payments and we’re pleased that more NatWest customers will be the first to try out this simple, convenient and secure way to pay. Authenticating payments with a fingerprint isn’t just easy – it boosts security and opens the door to larger contactless payments. We’ll work very closely with NatWest as the trial progresses to address feedback from users and make sure they’re getting the best experience possible.”

The fully integrated credit card can be used as normal in ATMs and for online shopping. Customers will not have to endure new hardware for shops to accept biometric cards. This means cardholders can use them at existing contactless and Chip and PIN terminals.

Customers just need to enrol and register the card using a plastic sleeve. It takes five minutes from home. However, once a digital fingerprint is locked onto the card, it cannot be changed. The bank confirmed that the user’s biometric data never leaves the card, is never shared with the merchant or bank, and no fingerprints are stored in a cloud.

The way the card works is when a customer presents a card, a green light on the card indicates that the fingerprint has been matched successfully.